Soyuz craft carrying Texas space tourist successfully docks at ISS

Texan millionaire space tourist Richard Gariott and two professional astronauts docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday after two days of cramped orbit aboard the Russian Soyuz shuttle, reported dpa.

Mission commander Michael Fincke of NASA and Russian flight engineer Yury Lonchakov, both on their second trip to space, joined Gariott in the capsule that blasted off from the Baikonour base on the barren steppes of Kazakhstan on Sunday.

The Soyuz craft successfully latched on to the ISS a few minutes ahead of schedule at 12:26 pm Moscow time (0926 GMT) and was expected to relieve the three space station residents after their toilettes went on the fritz this week.

The current ISS crew cosmonauts Alexander Volkov and Oleg Kononenko and astronaut Greg Chamitoff will use the facilities on the shuttle capsule while repairs.

The 18th ISS crew are also bringing new kitchens, workout equipment and other living improvements to expand the space station to roughly the size of a jumbo airliner and house six crew over the current three in the future.

Garriott, a computer game designer, paid 30 million dollars to Russia for the chance to realize his childhood dream to follow his former astronaut father to space.

Owen Garriott, who was acting as the chief scientist for his son's mission, spent two months the first orbiting space station in 1973.

During his 10-day tour he will be working together with another second-generation cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, son of Soviet space programme veteran Alexander Volkov.

Garriott, who became the sixth space tourist to board the ISS, brokered his flight with the Russian Federal Space Agency through a Space Adventures firm based in the US state of Virginia.

He has said he hopes his mission will inspire a new generation of space travel made possible through sponsorships.

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